“Alex the Lion: Be sure to visit my web site. 24-hour webcam. Watch me sleep.”
Any guesses as to who said this and why?
Well, let’s refresh your memory anyways. It’s worth it.
Madagascar, the movie? Pride of the Central Park Zoo in New York City, Alex the lion?
The movie popularised a zoo. The funky storyline goes against the conventional sentiments that people assume with animals in zoos. Of course, the initial alienation that an animal may feel at a zoo is very much present and justified. But zoos aren’t ‘animals in cages’ only. They provide homes for these animals away from their homes. A lot of effort goes into the maintenance of a zoo. To zookeepers, these animals are their children and this sentiment is very often reciprocated by these animals.
Now that you have been sensitized to this concept. Let’s look at zoos in the light they are supposed to be looked at: a de-stressed environment where one just marvels the wonders of the wild. In the USA, these are the 9 biggest zoos:
9. Memphis Zoo
According to TripAdvisor, the Memphis Zoo was voted as the best zoo in the USA in the year 2008. The zoo is home to approximately 3500 animals, including 500 different species of animals. Based on species, the zoo is divided into 18 exhibits. When we look at it in terms of size, land areas wise, the zoo is spread across 55 acres in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Giant Pandas, Ya Ya and Le Le embody cuteness and well let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see Giant Pandas?
8. St Louis Zoo
In the USA, there are quite a few zoos that do not charge for admission. In other words, these are free zoos. The St Louis Zoo falls under this category and the admission to it, is absolutely free. In fields of research and animal conservation, this zoo is at the very forefront of American Zoos. More than 3 million people visit on an annual basis to catch a glimpse at the 600+ species that call this zoo their home. Visiting the different exhibits can be a lot of fun, especially if you like train rides. The total area encompassed by the zoo is nearly 90 acres in Forest Park, St Louis.
7. Houston Zoo
One of the most visited zoos in the USA, the Houston Zoo provides sanctuary to some of the most diverse species of animals. As a total, nearly 900 different species of animals reside in this zoo. It attracts tourists in large volumes, in excess of 2.5 million even, on an annual basis. There are four main exhibits namely: African Forest, Kipp Aquarium, Birds and Carnivores. The reason why the zoo has a lot of visitors annually is because it’s not just a zoo. There are a number of other interactions that are integrated into this space itself. All these animals and interactions fit into a space of 55 acres within the Hermann Park in Houston, Texas.
6. Cincinnati Zoo
History has integrated itself with the Cincinnati zoo on numerous occasions. Within the zoo premises, lies the ‘Reptile House’, which is the oldest zoo building in the USA. One would think that the zoo itself, would be the oldest, however that’s not true. It is in fact, the second oldest zoo in the country. The last passenger pigeon found its calling while at this very zoo. Such was the case for the last Carolina Parakeet in the world, as well. It can arguably considered to be one of the best zoos in the country, if not the best zoo. Personnel in charge of the zoo take responsibility in conducting a number of breeding programs for animals endangered in the wild. Some of the other activities the visitors can take part in/witness include, giraffe feeding and elephant baths Nearly 1.2 million people visit this vast expanse that is stretched across 75 acres of land, providing sanctuary to more than 500 different animal species.
5. San Diego Zoo
Nobody likes seeing animal in cages. But what can be done, right? The management personnel at San Diego Zoo were one of the first people to address this problem. They propagated the concept of open-air enclosures. A concept that’s been recognized in multiple zoos all over the world today. The zoo comes under the San Diego Zoo Global which is one of the largest zoological associations in the whole world. Within the 99 acres, more than 650 species of animals reside. As we all know, the Giant Pandas today, an iconic animal throughout the world, is critically endangered. Zoological associations all over the world are attempting to breed these pandas. The San Diego Zoo is one such association that’s in fact, not only tried but it has been successful in breeding these iconic animals. If you are tired of walking around and looking at the exhibits, hop on to the sky tram and view the animals from up above.
4. Miami Zoo
Firstly, let’s establish this about Miami Zoo: it is the only tropical zoo in the USA. Now, perhaps the coolest thing about the zoo is the fact that you can hand hand-feed the two Indian Rhino’s that it has. That must be fun. Moving on to the size of the zoo. Well, let’s just say this, it is quite difficult to complete it in just one day. The road along which all the exhibits are positioned runs about 5km long. That’s just the length of the road. Whereas the total area encompassed by the zoo is 750 acres. Ron Magill, the famous wildlife photographer and expert acts as the zoo’s communication director.
3. Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo can boast of being one of the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Denver and according to the statistics of 2005, it really was the most popular tourist attraction. Just like the San Diego Zoo, a lot of the enclosures are free-air exhibits instead of cages. The entire setting of the zoo gives a really, let’s say, real experience, which is due to the closeness and characteristics of the free-air enclosures. Approximately 1.6 million people visit the zoo annually, to look at some of the 600+ species that it houses. All of this is enclosed within 80 acres of land in Denver, Colorado.
2. Philadelphia Zoo
Initially, the plan was to set up the Philadelphia Zoo sometime around the year 1859. However, due to the American Civil War, this had to wait until the 1st of July, 1974. This made it the first proper zoo in the USA. The zoo has very humble origins and began with just 1000 animals. Today it has nearly 2500 animals of more than 300 different species. The zoo acts as a very important place for animal breeding. Although it’s not a really big zoo, the entire of it lying within 42 acres, it houses some really unique, endangered species. Some of these endangered species include: Sumatran Orangutans and Chinese Alligator. A tortoise may not be an endangered, rare species, but the tortoise that lives in the Philadelphia is nearly 70 years old!
1. Bronx Zoo (New York)
Within the city of New York, lies the Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the USA. Like the city, it’s very grand. The exhibits, the number of species and the number of animals, everything is grand about it. Every year, nearly 2.15 million people visit the zoo and navigate through the 265 acres, catching a glimpse of all the unique animals. There are more than 4000 animals of 600+ different species. The zoo as a whole is truly a spectacle with a lot of other activities and features that bring in flocks of tourists. For example: it has a butterfly garden, that’s absolutely gorgeous along with a mini-theatre that plays a 4D movie.
Everywhere in the world there are zoos. Zoos prove to be a great tourist attraction in a lot of countries. Apart from that, they provide crucial support to the zoological associations around the world in fields like animal breeding, animal behaviour research, conservation and so on. These zoos mentioned above in the USA have been doing just this and much more for the country and the animal kingdom as a whole.